If an alcoholic can quit, why is it so hard to quit a game?

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If an alcoholic can quit, why is it so hard to quit a game?

Postby laroo on Mon Aug 03, 2009 11:43 am

Hi everyone,

I've been sober for 5 years now. Without going into a long diatribe, suffice to say I drank a lot 20-odd years. It took a long time for my wife to finally get to the point where it was either her or the bottle - something was going to go. I guess I am lucky, I chose my family over my addiction and quit drinking altogether. Since then, many things have changed in my life, mostly for the better.

I started playing WoW about three years ago, it was really an on-again-off-again kind of thing just to pass the time for me. I still play it that way, only occasionally and never for extended periods - it just doesn't hold my interest for that long. My wife got an account of her own so we would be able to play together. We made characters together for that purpose. Only, Instead of playing/leveling our characters together, my wife chose to join a guild. She leveled to 80 very fast with them and now they raid/run instances almost every single night. Of the two times we've actually played together, one time was quite fun because nobody from her guild was on, and the other basically sucked because even though we were sitting right next to each other, she spent the whole time chatting with her guildmates and ignoring me. Of course, that particular time she had to wrap it up with me after an hour or so as she had to go and play with her new high-level friends for the next 6 hours. And then again the next night. And the next. I've stopped asking her to spend time playing with me as there is no point to it. Since then she's made alts and now plays her lower-level characters with these same guildmates; never has she asked me if I'd like to join them. Every attempt - and I mean EVERY attempt - I've made to get her to log off and spend time with the family has been a failure. She has no desire to spend time with me or the kids. She really only seems to enjoy playing with her new friends. I feel like if I want her to interact with me at all I'll have to make a giant question mark out of yellow construction paper and staple it to my forehead.

WoW addiction and alcoholism have many parallels. I will not go so far as to say they are equally destructive - alcoholism is an incredibly destructive force - but they both take their toll on a relationship just the same. Just as alcoholics will forsake everything in their lives for the sake of their addiction, WoW can be a vehicle that fuels neglect, can cause serious problems with work (she's late almost every day now because she's up raiding every night past 1:30 am), can destroy whatever social life you may have, and can drive a wedge between you and your loved ones. Just as in an alcoholic home, WoW widowers may feel neglected, left out, unloved, unappreciated and small. At least with an alcoholic you can point your finger at the bottle and say "there is the source of all of our problems" and be taken seriously (whether or not the statement is true). Unfortunately, this is not, in my experience, the case with video game addiction. I can't see it being treated realistically with the life-or-death finality which accompanies drug/alcohol addiction. Walk into a room of recovered hardcore alcoholics or ex-heroine junkies who were able to get sober and tell them your wife is addicted to a video game - while they may admit to some of the parallels outlined here, you'll likely be laughed out of the room. Nevertheless, the inability of some people to balance their game time with time spent with the real people in their lives can destroy a marriage just as surely as if they were locked in a garage hitting the bottle or a needle all day and all night.

Aa an alcoholic I was so incredibly neglectful of her and her needs, and I am now experiencing a part of what that must have been like for her. I go to bed alone every night. She is in total denial that there is anything destructive in her actions. We are on the verge of divorce and I feel like I am the only one trying to salvage our marriage. She is so wrapped up in her game that the needs of the people who love her in real life are insignificant. It is more important for her to push a bunch of pixels around on a screen chasing a reward that will only lead to the next 6-hour session of pushing pixels around on a screen. The game is truly pointless. Of course, she refuses to acknowledge any of these parallels. If you ask her, there is nothing wrong with her behavior at all - it's just her hobby. Kind of reminds me of how drinking a 12-pack a night of tall boys was just my hobby. The difference is, now I know better.

So here I am, not ready to quit on my marriage. Unfortunately I have no advice for any WoW widower other than this: Be honest with yourself, evaluate where you are and what you want, and if you feel that what you had is worth it, and you feel there is a chance that you could get it back, then do everything you can to stick it out for the one you love. My wife didn't quit on me through many years of drinking until it got to be too much and I finally got the message. I owe it to her to not give up so easily on our marriage because of a stupid video game. My attitude may change some day, but I'm just not there yet.

Sorry to ramble - this whole WoW Widower thing is kinda new to me. I'll post follow-ups if there's a change in the situation.

Best,
Laroo
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Re: If an alcoholic can quit, why is it so hard to quit a game?

Postby MaryBraveBird on Tue Aug 04, 2009 9:03 am

I guess the question is - as with all addictions - what you try to accomplish with the addiction. It serves a need, it fills a hole, it makes you forget your real-life problems, it makes you feel important, etc. What was it for you? And what is it for your wife now? There's pretty much always an underlying problem that needs to be dealt with.
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Re: If an alcoholic can quit, why is it so hard to quit a game?

Postby Djorn on Tue Aug 04, 2009 11:24 am

Welcome laroo, nice post. Interesting situation. You obviously have a lot of empathy with your wife which is great. I don't really know what to advise. Just keep writing about it here.
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Re: If an alcoholic can quit, why is it so hard to quit a game?

Postby laroo on Tue Aug 04, 2009 7:28 pm

Sorry if this goes long - I tend to ramble. For me, drinking was really something that I carried over from my youth. I don't know what I was trying to accomplish, but I know it left me lagging behind in the 'growing up' department. I've been scrambling for the past five years, though, and I thought I was making some progress.

Last night I began to look at my wife's WoW obsession from a different angle, from the view of addiction. She had been in a 5-man instance for the better part of the night. I can't talk to her when she's in the middle of these runs with her headphones on, so I logged on around 11:00 to ask her if she'd be playing much longer. She wrote back and said about another hour. So I wrote back and said ok, let me know when you are done. Around 12:20, I logged on again and asked how much longer she'd be playing, and she said about another hour. I was almost ready to let it go...but I didn't. Perhaps unwise, but the whole situation has been irking me something fierce and I've been losing sleep over it. I couldn't let it go, I was so tired of waiting around for her to make an effort to make time for me. So I started a dialogue with her through pst (not guild chat, ha ha). I began by just telling her that I've tried to get her to spend some time with me, and that it bothered me how she could set aside 30-40+ hours/week for her guild, but none for me. We had a short back-and-forth where a little progress was made and she seemed to understand where I was coming from, but then she got defensive and I could tell she just wanted me to leave her alone. Dummy that I am, I couldn't let it go at that. So I made my way to the bedroom where she was playing, sat down and continued the conversation. Not an 'intervention' - I was just tired of being ignored.

Our conversation continued, sometimes pleasant and sometimes heated, for the next 2 hours as they wiped repeatedly on the last boss. I guess I'm a jerk because I knew I was distracting her from her game, but I simply couldn't care less about the game at that point. When they called it quits with their unsuccessful attempts around 2:30, our conversation continued and unfortunately grew more heated. The bottom line is our anger stems from resentments from years past and this obsession of hers is some kind of symptom of that. I thought we'd put a lot of that stuff behind us. Now, this may sound funny or egotistical or stupid to some people, but in the past 5 years I feel like I have done a lot to work with those kinds of issues, and I don't throw the past up in anybody's face. Unfortunately my wife has never gone through a life-changing chapter of recovery where you learn how to deal with these things, and the next thing I know the corpses of 16-year-old episodes spring back to life. Turns out she has never actually forgiven me or gotten over even the slightest of slights from our past. So many things I thought long-dead came back to haunt me.

The situation only deteriorated from there. She felt unloved and unwanted, she said, and in her guild she feels wanted. Doesn't matter how many times or ways I'd tried to get her to spend time with me, it turns out everything is simply my fault and according to her has been all along. I owned up to some of what she was saying and disagreed with her where I thought she was off base. The only flaw that she would even semi-own up to was that she maybe enjoyed playing WoW a little too much, but that she had very good reasons for obsessing over it as she does. She was not in the mood to accommodate any resolution so she simply justified everything. Everything was my fault, and my feelings were my problem. In my infinite wisdom, I proceeded to fan the flames of an argument until it blew up in my face.

And blow up it did. A little backstory, only 3 months ago we talked about divorce, and we agreed at that time to work on ourselves and our marriage together. Not much has changed since then. So the subject came back up last night and we both agreed that we were miserable living this way. I felt that I've owned up to a significant part of my character flaws while getting nothing but resistance and bile from her, and we agreed that it may be time to call it quits. We talked about how that would work from that point of view - that we had nothing left to work out or take/cast blame for, nothing but the logistics of how a divorce would work out. We spent a good amount of time on that. Finally got to sleep around 4:30. We slept in the same room, which has become something of an oddity. I had simply had enough and so, apparently, had she. This wasn't an off-the-cuff decision, it's been rolling around in both of our heads for a long time (in her case, longer.) She was trading me in for a video game.

It is a weird feeling having a conversation that horrible and at the end of it feeling as if someone has removed a huge weight from your shoulders. But that's how it felt. I slept well for the 2 hours of sleep I got. Even after weighing out how this will affect our younger and older kids, how I hated my own father for leaving, etc. etc. etc., that weight that's been on me was gone. Weird.

And then, this morning, it comes back up like a damn specter. Via e-mail from our workplaces (which is never a good idea), the conversation continued. Turns out that even though divorce was her idea in the first place, if I walk out it is still my fault and I'm to blame for leaving. I reminded her how I was the one who wanted to work it out. Blah blah blah. Result: We're going to take a weekend away from everything, get out of town together and try to work it out. It's a good idea. I never wanted to leave my wife in the first place, but I had already been getting to that point, and being told again and again how literally everything wrong with my marriage is my fault had simply taken it's toll.

It's a good thing, though far from a resolved issue. We have a lot of work ahead of us, we've let the whole thing go so far south. I love my wife dearly even if she sometimes drives me absolutely crazy. Hey, I'm no prize.
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Re: If an alcoholic can quit, why is it so hard to quit a game?

Postby Chunev on Wed Aug 05, 2009 8:20 am

This is an excellent example of hitting rock bottom, and what many other strive for. To get some reaction out of their addicted S/O. Congratulations for getting to that point, making the "wakeup call".

As anticipated, thar be dragons. The problems lying underneath that were hidden by the game now spring forth. She may apologise for some of the things she said later, but you two really need to work on your relationship. Be sorry for mistakes that need to be sorry about. But focus more on the future and what you'd like to be together. Then think of ways how you both can make it happen.

Everything is not your fault, even though she says so. Responsibility is not to be beared by one party of a 2 person relationship alone. It might ease her viewpoint of it, and you might be wise not to talk about it too much, but know that everything is not your fault.

Have an insightful weekend and keep posting.
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Re: If an alcoholic can quit, why is it so hard to quit a game?

Postby laroo on Mon Aug 10, 2009 3:20 pm

Well, we had a great weekend and the bottom line is that this will be an ongoing issue. It took us a long time to get where we are in our relationship and it will take us a long time to patch up the holes we've dug along the way.

One thing I have come to believe is that WoW is really only a symptom of our problems at this point; it's a way for her to escape the reality of an uncomfortable situation, and it's become a crutch. She has had other crutches before this; the difference is, when you break your leg, it heals itself while you're using the crutch. In our situation, her crutch is what has given her license to ignore issues that need to be addressed. If it weren't for WoW, she'd find a dozen other ways to avoid addressing the issues and mending the damage. So I can't blame it all on the game.

We found some solid common ground over the weekend but this won't do anything to heal our marriage in and of itself. It's simply a 'neutral zone' where we can agree to come together to work out our crap. I can take credit for my part, and I can try to understand her part. I can make the effort to correct my behavior where it is skewed, but if she can't make that same effort to address her own garbage, then we're DOA.

The actual healing itself will take work, and plenty of it. That seems to be where we've always fallen flat. If we keep repeating the past, doing nothing to address the very serious problems in our marriage, then we'll be right back at square one, and I've gone around this circle too many times already to live out the rest of my days on this earth in misery.

So there it is. I'll come back with updates as they occur in the hopes that something in my story may help someone who is struggling with a similar situation. Thanks everyone for being an empathetic ear and a sounding board when I needed one! :joy
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Re: If an alcoholic can quit, why is it so hard to quit a game?

Postby Djorn on Wed Aug 12, 2009 5:35 am

Great post.

From my limited view it seems you take blame for everything and she takes blame for nothing. Can that work?

You take responsibility or blame for everything that happens to you in life which is good, but only to an extent. Everything that happens to her is somebody else's fault and out of her control?

Hope my amatuer psychology 101 is not offensive.
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Re: If an alcoholic can quit, why is it so hard to quit a game?

Postby laroo on Wed Aug 12, 2009 12:38 pm

Offensive? Not at all! When all is said and done I can only take responsibility for my part; historically, she's had trouble taking responsibility for her part in things. This is not only a major impediment to any real growth, it's made a difficult relationship all the more troublesome.

Sometimes you hear of a relationship dissolving simply because one person outgrew the other and their needs were no longer being met. I've felt like that many, many times over the years. Rather than walking away, though, I've tried to just stay real about the situation and not let it drag me down. I think this is very different than simply being in denial. I'm aware of my goals and whether or not my wife shares them with me is not going to stop me from seeing real growth in my own life. Of course it would be much easier if we had common goals, as we'd be able to help each other achieve them much more quickly.

I don't mean for this to sound as if there is no point beyond which I would be ready to walk away. It's just that I haven't reached that point yet though it's seemed to me many times that I was approaching it.

I think the bottom line for me is that if I want this to work, and she wants this to work, then that's exactly what it's going to take - work. If it finally comes down to me doing all of the work all of the time, though, then at least when it ends I'll have become a better person for it. You are absolutely right, one person cannot take all of the responsibility all of the time.
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Re: If an alcoholic can quit, why is it so hard to quit a game?

Postby Djorn on Fri Aug 14, 2009 6:21 am

You have wisdom pouring out your ears.

You don't need me :)
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Re: If an alcoholic can quit, why is it so hard to quit a game?

Postby OblivionMage on Sat Aug 15, 2009 2:45 am

If an alcoholic can quit, why is it so hard to quit a game?


Because, my friends, gaming is not addictive. You want to play it because you enjoy it, just as you want to go outside for a walk, play a sport, watch a movie / television program, or donate to a charity. They all bring you happiness so you undertake them.

Many video games are really just glorified Social Networking GUI's, and there's nothing wrong with chatting it up with other human beings. If you find yourself doing that 'too much', then fill in those wholes in your life with other things, but going years without a game, or even 'quitting' one, is just ridiculous and borne of delusion.
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Re: If an alcoholic can quit, why is it so hard to quit a game?

Postby FadedNovelty on Sat Aug 15, 2009 9:31 am

OblivionMage wrote:
If an alcoholic can quit, why is it so hard to quit a game?


Because, my friends, gaming is not addictive. You want to play it because you enjoy it, just as you want to go outside for a walk, play a sport, watch a movie / television program, or donate to a charity. They all bring you happiness so you undertake them.

Many video games are really just glorified Social Networking GUI's, and there's nothing wrong with chatting it up with other human beings. If you find yourself doing that 'too much', then fill in those wholes in your life with other things, but going years without a game, or even 'quitting' one, is just ridiculous and borne of delusion.


Sounds to me like someone is trying to justify their own addiction...
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Re: If an alcoholic can quit, why is it so hard to quit a game?

Postby Ender on Sun Aug 16, 2009 9:45 am

OblivionMage wrote:
If an alcoholic can quit, why is it so hard to quit a game?


Because, my friends, gaming is not addictive. You want to play it because you enjoy it, just as you want to go outside for a walk, play a sport, watch a movie / television program, or donate to a charity. They all bring you happiness so you undertake them.

Many video games are really just glorified Social Networking GUI's, and there's nothing wrong with chatting it up with other human beings. If you find yourself doing that 'too much', then fill in those wholes in your life with other things, but going years without a game, or even 'quitting' one, is just ridiculous and borne of delusion.


Alcoholism starts with drinking because its fun and its enjoyable...
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Re: If an alcoholic can quit, why is it so hard to quit a game?

Postby laroo on Mon Aug 17, 2009 10:27 am

Addiction is the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.

The AMA agrees with you, as does the American Psychiatric Association, that video game addiction is not a recognized mental disorder. The APA is due to update their Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 2012, and video game addiction is currently being considered for inclusion.

While I agree with you about the social aspect of the game, I might also remind you that bars can be like second homes to certain alcoholics to the detriment of everything of value in their lives, while most other people can simply enjoy them on occasion and not make a career out of it. Of course, WoW won't poison your liver and you won't get the shakes if someone smashes your modem. But, I do believe there can be a period of physical and mental withdrawal which comes in the form of mild to severe depression. A certain Chinese gentleman threw himself out the window of his apartment building when Blizzard banned his account. Doesn't seem rational to me.

If you poke around, you'll find a lot of people whose lives have been damaged by their own or a loved one's irrational obsession with World of Warcraft. It seems that the jury is still out on whether or not it is recognized as an addiction. There is plenty of evidence, however, to support the idea that it can be abused, and that such abuse can be damaging to people's lives.

Keep in mind that the title of this post was meant only to reflect my own situation, not to compare Alcoholism to video games.
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Re: If an alcoholic can quit, why is it so hard to quit a game?

Postby happiness on Mon Aug 17, 2009 1:59 pm

@ Oblivionmage:

The area is being researched intensively - and there is allready evidence that shows that compulsive gaming can cause changes in the brain identical to changes caused by drugs like cocain and amphetamine. So I find it a bit "cocky" of you just to state what you wrote - and you strike me as the typical troll who comes here with a lot of fancy opinions to justify your own gaming. Some people are more prone to addiction from excessive reward-related release of dopamine in the brain than others and there is still a lot more investigation needed before anyone can say anything as definite as you do here.

I work as a doctor and have a personal interest in this field and have therefore read a lot about it. Sorry if my post seems agressive towards you - I dont really know you - but your opinions are a bit rigid.

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Re: If an alcoholic can quit, why is it so hard to quit a game?

Postby Djorn on Tue Aug 18, 2009 6:39 am

OblivionMage wrote:
If an alcoholic can quit, why is it so hard to quit a game?


Because, my friends, gaming is not addictive. You want to play it because you enjoy it, just as you want to go outside for a walk, play a sport, watch a movie / television program, or donate to a charity. They all bring you happiness so you undertake them.

Many video games are really just glorified Social Networking GUI's, and there's nothing wrong with chatting it up with other human beings. If you find yourself doing that 'too much', then fill in those wholes in your life with other things, but going years without a game, or even 'quitting' one, is just ridiculous and borne of delusion.


I'm glad you can play healthily. I can drink the occasional beer healthily. Can everybody?

For a lot of gamers, Initially, enjoyment is the reason to play. Then it becomes to gain levels, then to acheive status, then to gain equipment, then to boost your ego, then to avoid the real life problems excessive gaming time has created, then to satisfy an urge to play because you get stressed and anxious if you don't.

Then you forget how to enjoy it. But you still keep playing.

Forget the word addiction. Does the above sound healthy to you?
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Re: If an alcoholic can quit, why is it so hard to quit a game?

Postby Chunev on Sat Feb 06, 2010 9:33 am

Found this article on changing oneself's behaviour, and the invisible levels of automation in our brains. Especially readable to computer people who know kernels and coding.

http://dirtsimple.org/2005/11/refactore ... art-1.html

In a nutshell, it's saying that one way to change persistant behavious is to re-examine the motives for doing it in light of the curren environment. Am I filling the purpose I'm trying to achieve by doing this? Could I achieve it with some other behaviour? What am I gaining with my current behaviour?
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Re: If an alcoholic can quit, why is it so hard to quit a game?

Postby Mortlach on Sat Feb 06, 2010 1:04 pm

OblivionMage wrote:
If an alcoholic can quit, why is it so hard to quit a game?


Because, my friends, gaming is not addictive.


I would laugh if it wasn't so gut wrenchingly sad.
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Re: If an alcoholic can quit, why is it so hard to quit a ga

Postby Chunev on Tue Jul 03, 2012 6:32 am

A study on the addiction mechanisms in games, and especially subscription-based games:
http://www.cracked.com/article_18461_5-creepy-ways-video-games-are-trying-to-get-you-addicted.html

It also links to an article about a former gaming addict:
http://kotaku.com/5384643/i-kept-playing--the-costs-of-my-gaming-addiction

(btw, the article has a happy ending, with this turning point: "I moved back in with my parents. It wasn't an instant cure for my addiction – as soon as I convinced them to let me order DSL I was back online again – but something had changed. I started spending more time hanging out with my parents and less time sitting in my computer chair staring at little computer people doing little computer things. I had responsibilities. I had a support system. I had a stable platform to launch myself from instead of the quicksand I felt I had been standing in before." )
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Re: If an alcoholic can quit, why is it so hard to quit a ga

Postby laroo on Wed Jul 11, 2012 11:08 am

Wow, great article - thanks for linking that, Chunev!
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